Yesterday I met a Franco-Algerian woman who has worked for a big Swedish company, both in Sweden, France, and Morocco. A different profile to what you might expect to meet at a dinner with only Expat Wives. This only shows how many prejudiced ideas people, including I, have without thinking about it… It might also show that the profile of the Expat Wife is changing. Or, it might simply be that my definition of an Expat Wife is not necessarily correct when I (almost) jokingly say that it is made up of the number of manicures per month a person has, coupled with the number of discussions concluding that “finding good staff is sooo difficult these days.”
Aside from the reminder that we should never assume anything about anything, or anyone, in advance but approach everything and everyone with an open mind, the discussion we had revealed some interesting aspects of a work environment which is totally different from that I am used to seeing.
It turned out she had been with this Swedish company for over ten years. She was amazed at how employees, and even directors, would be on the dot on time for a weekly, or even more recurrent, meeting at four o’clock in the afternoons. It was not the weekly performance review or department meeting. It was the “pick up the children at daycare”-meetings. For Scandinavians (or maybe Swedes?), this is not surprising; it’s totally normal. It would be more abnormal if a father, even one in a management position, never picked up his children at daycare. This is not the isolated case of one big company. Most people, at least in Europe, have already heard about this supposedly Scandinavian phenomenon.
However, as you have to pick up your children early, not a minute is wasted during the day. Efficiency is high, even at the coffee machine, and you make sure that you keep working even during your coffee breaks. Not necessarily on documents or presentations, but by discussing important work topics with your colleagues, for example. And if you have made a commitment to deliver your report at four pm, it will be ready on the desk at four, not a minute later.
This is what counts. A commitment is a commitment, be it for daycare or for work.